Declaring the Igloo obsolete and replacing it with a cookie cutter development, as the Sports & Exhibition Authority proposes, is a slap in the face to Hill residents who have historically been denied a place at the table. Fifty years ago, we didn't know better. We do now.
Fortunately, a group of progressive thinkers are looking through a different lens. They have seen how Portland, Montreal and Memphis are turning obsolete arenas into vital urban attractions; how neighborhoods included in the planning process return development dollars to the community instead of exporting them to national franchises. They imagine a new destination as an all-season civic space housing cafes, recreational sports, performances and even unique living spaces.
But adaptive reuse takes time. The Armstrong Cork complex spent years collecting graffiti and garbage; now it is the hottest condo in the Strip. The P&LE Railroad sat abandoned and dark before emerging as one of the most elegant interiors in Pittsburgh, the Grand Concourse.
The advocacy group (ReusetheIgloo.org) is asking the SEA for time to work with Hill stakeholders, study successes of other cities and develop fiscally sound alternatives for this irreplaceable landmark. Transforming the Igloo into a one-of-a-kind urban space is what people do when they love their city.